Photographer Renee McMahon and I got an early look inside EMP's Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibit yesterday. And though it's still a work in progress, I can report that it's going to be a hall worth seeing for longtime barflies and band geeks who know the band's story inside and out, as well as for tourists.
The most impressive element of the exhibit--which takes up the entirety of what used to be known as the Northwest Passage--is the care curator Jacob McMurray takes in telling the story not just of the band, but of the scene, the infrastructure--the network of clubs, basements, zines, labels, and fellow bands--they were a product of.
"It's by force of will alone that these bands existed. I cannot overemphasize the role of DIY [to the scene]," McMurray says. "Nirvana," McMurray told me, "was the last in a decade-long process of priming mainstream for underground tastes."
Among the festivities surrounding the opening of the exhibit on April 16, McMurray is hosting a panel discussion titled "The Metropolis: Birthplace of Grunge." Panelists such as Jason Finn (The Presidents), Susan Silver (former manager of Soundgarden), and former club owner Hugo "Poki" Piottin will discuss the role that the short-lived, heavily influential venue played in the grunge apparatus.
If you have any interest in learning what the infrastructure was like for the bands that made Seattle music famous--and how it contradicts the scene today--it's a must-see.